One of my fondest memories of my childhood is from when I was about 6 or 7. I was in Mrs Harris’ class at school, a teacher who was warm, fun, exciting, beautiful, loving ~ everything my Mum lacked at that time. I loved Mrs Harris with a passion. I loved her wild, wavy red hair and most of all I loved her vibrancy. I was a shy little girl, lacking in confidence and Mrs Harris often took me under her wing and made me feel safe. The best times in Mrs Harris’ class were a Friday afternoon. That time was known as ‘Free Time’ and I looked forward to that the whole week.
After lunch, Mrs Harris would announce it to be free time, we’d go over to the wall where she had up a circular piece of card with different coloured sections and we’d each spin the dial and see where it landed. Whatever it landed on was what we would spend the afternoon doing. It could be arts, crafts or music, sand play, water play, painting or free choice. I don’t actually remember doing the activities I just remember always hoping it would land on free choice. I loved being able to decide what I would spend the afternoon doing, completely my choice. Whenever I landed on free choice I remember feeling elated although I don’t recall what I chose to do. I do remember Mrs Harris would sometimes, when it landed on something other than free choice, allow me to do whatever I felt like doing anyway.
Thinking back makes me question this. It seems so obvious to me now that choice has always been so important in my life, right back as far as I can remember. Is this the same for every single person? Does everyone have a driving need to have choices in their life or was I so desperate for choices because I didn’t have many/any? I honestly don’t know. What I do know though was as I got older I didn’t seem to have many choices. Until I left home at 18 my Mum still chose all my clothes for me. We never got a say in what we ate, we ate what we were given. We didn’t make choices as a family very often, we were told what we were doing. Maybe though, this was a normal 1970s/80s childhood. Things weren’t as they are now. I notice that I sometimes find it hard to make a decision, possibly because I never had to do that as a child, all decisions were made for me.
Strangely, given my need for choice, I went on to fall in love with Tom, a man who made it almost impossible for me to have choices. He decided everything from how the house was decorated to what work we’d have done to where we ate and even how long I should sleep for. Isn’t that odd? That I would ‘choose’ to fall in love with a man that took away something that is so important to me.
In the last few days, I’ve been questioning why I am so vehemently single. Why I don’t feel lonely. Why I rarely long for a man or for love in my life. Why I don’t miss being held, or the sex or the company or anything that comes with a relationship. I wonder if I fear so strongly, my choices being taken away again? Of meeting someone, knowing that in some ways, a lot of ways, I will have to stop thinking of just mine and the kids’ needs and wants, but have to factor in someone else’s too which could leave my wheel of choice less multi-coloured and more monochrome and yet I find this so odd because meeting and falling in love ten years ago actually brought about the most wonderful times and feelings I’d ever had in my life. Until it all went so wrong.